Thank you to all the constituents who have been contacting me about scrutiny of the UK-Australia trade deal. I agree with you on this important issue and appreciate the vital concerns you raise.
My Labour colleagues and I have long believed MPs must have the ability to properly scrutinise the Government’s negotiations and trade agreements. I therefore supported several amendments during the passage of the Trade Bill that would have given Parliament a more effective role in scrutinising and approving trade deals. Unfortunately, the Government opposed and defeated these efforts to provide proper parliamentary oversight of its trade policy. I believe the shortcomings evident in what we have seen of the UK-Australia free trade agreement so far, particularly when it comes to agriculture, make clear why such scrutiny is needed.
The International Trade Secretary said she would not sign a trade deal that would allow British farmers to be undercut by cheap imports produced using practices banned in the UK. Yet she has agreed a deal that will allow into our country tariff-free, meat from farms in Australia that use several such practices, undermining British standards, undercutting British farmers and breaking promises made to the British people.
Furthermore, despite the Government’s claim that tariff-free agricultural imports will be capped for 15 years, the deal will allow Australia’s farm corporations to increase their beef exports to several times the volume of what they currently export to the UK from year one before paying any tariffs. The Government’s own scoping study last year said such an increase would mean a fall in output and employment for UK agriculture. British farmers will be worse off as a result of this deal, as well as when New Zealand, Canada, Brazil and the US demand the same deal for their exports.
I want good trade deals with other countries – ones that create jobs, support our industries and strengthen our economy and recovery. However, I believe what we have seen of the Australia deal demonstrates the ineffectiveness of the Government in achieving such deals. Parliament therefore needs to have the opportunity to reject the current terms of the agreement on farming so we can return to the negotiating table and get a better deal for Britain.
Thank you once again for contacting me. I can assure you that my Labour colleagues and I will continue to do what I can to support efforts to press the Government on this issue.